Student Fellows Visit DC for an Introduction to PA Advocacy and Leadership

During their three-day visit to the nation’s capital, the Student Health Policy Fellows learned about prominent policy issues affecting PA education and practice, developed the skills necessary to become effective policy advocates, and put these lessons into action during meetings on Capitol Hill with staff members in the offices of their elected representatives.

This year’s Student Health Policy Fellowship kickoff took place at a particularly busy time for PA education issues on the federal level.

On the first day of the fellowship, PAEA MAT Training Initiative Project Director John Lopes, DHSc, PA-C, spoke to the students about the role of PAs in responding to the national opioid epidemic. He also touched on PAEA’s advocacy efforts surrounding loan repayment for PAs practicing in behavioral health capacities and permanent X-waiver eligibility for PAs to prescribe medication-assisted treatment.

The PAEA Government Relations Team, joined by Tate Heuer, Kristin Butterfield, and Stephanie Radix of AAPA, updated the fellows on emerging policy priorities, best practices for conducting meetings on Capitol Hill, and the need to become involved in state-level advocacy efforts both as fellows and in the future as practicing clinicians. This focus was complemented by a presentation by Julie Shroyer and James Fleischmann from our lobbying firm, Polsinelli, LLC, who discussed the current political landscape.

“While it was exciting to see all that Washington, DC, has to offer, it was an amazing experience to actually conduct meetings on the Hill and contribute in that way,” said University of Bridgeport PA Student Fellow Marissa Weeks. “It may seem intimidating at first, but when you are truly passionate about something, it is surprising how easy it is to talk about those topics. Everyone at PAEA helped us to feel prepared and confident so that we could make the most of the experience.”

Emphasizing the fellowship’s focus on leadership, PAEA’s Chief Policy and Research Officer Dave Keahey, MSPH, PA-C, discussed his role in lifelong leadership as a PA along with his experience as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellow in the office of Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). This perspective was followed by an interactive session with Kate Dixon, a health policy fellow in the office of Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS), who shared advocacy advice from the perspective of a congressional staff member.

Fellows Bridget Gallagher (left) and Mary Herc (right). Photo: Bridget Gallagher

This perspective provided critical guidance as the students embarked upon the Hill on the final day of their visit. Combined, the fellows were able to meet with the staff of 30 lawmakers, including 11 Senate Democrats, 10 Senate Republicans, three House Democrats, and six House Republicans.

“I hope to encourage my classmates and future Seton Hall PA students to explore this fellowship as a supplement to their education, and I hope to motivate PAs and students in New Jersey to support their patients through leadership and advocacy,” said Seton Hall University Student Fellow Bridget Gallagher.

PAEA’s Government Relations team would like to offer special thanks to Timi Agar Barwick, Michael DeRosa, Megan Berry Dang, Tate Heuer, Kristin Butterfield, Stephanie Radix, Julie Shroyer, James Fleischmann, Rob Daley, and Kate Dixon for their work in making the 2018 Student Health Policy Fellowship possible.